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Why is the Negro
BY THE LATE
Reprinted by permission from "The A.M.E. Church
Review" for Memorial Distribution, by a few
of his English friends.
PRINTED BY JOHN WHITBY AND SONS, LIMITED.
We have felt that the most fitting tribute that
we, of the Anti-Caste movement, can pay to the
memory of this noble and faithful life is to issue
broadcast -as far as the means entrusted to 7is ivill
allow — his last great appeal for Justice (uttered
through the pages of '■'The A.M.E. Church Review''
only a few months before his death). A slanderous
charge against Negro morality has gone forth
throughout the world and has been widely credited.
The white American has had his say both North
and South. On behalf of the accused., Frederick
Douglass claims, in the name of justice, to be
Copies can be obtained free from the Editor of "Anti-Caste,"
Street, Somerset, England.
Why is the Negro Lynched?
("The Lesson of the Hour.")
BY THE LATE
Reprinted by permissto7i from the ''A.M.E. Church Reznczv.'
THE AFRO- AMERICAN PEOPLE INDICTED ON A NEW CHARGE.
INTRODUCTORY— THE WRITER'S CLAIM TO BE HEARD.*
I PROPOSE to give you a coloured man's view of the
so-called " Negro Problem." We have had the
Southern white man's view of this subject at large in
the press, in the pulpit and on the platform. He has
spoken in the pride of his power and to willing ears.
Coloured by his peculiar environments, his version has
been presented with abundant repetition, with startling
emphasis, and with every advantage to his side of the
question. We have also had the Northern white man's
view of the subject, tempered by his distance from the
scene and by his different, if not his higher, civilization.
This quality and quantity of evidence, may be con-
sidered by some men as all sufficient upon which to found
an intelligent judgment of the whole matter in con-
troversy, and, therefore, it may be thought my testimony
is not needed. But experience has taught us that it is
sometimes wise and necessary to have more than two
witnesses to bring out the whole truth. Especially is this
the case where one of such witnesses has a powerful
motive for suppressing or distorting the facts, as in this
case. I therefore insist upon my right to take the witness
stand and give my version of this Southern question, and
though it shall widely differ from that of both the
* The headings and divisions are not in the original copy.
North and South, 1 shall submit the same to the candid
iudg-ment of all who hear me in full confidence that it will
be received as true, by honest men and women of both
sections of this Republic.
There is one thing, however, in which I think we must
all agree at the start. It is that this so-called but mis-
called Negro problem is one of the most im.portant and
uro-ent subjects that can now engage public attention. Its
sofution is, and ought to be, the serious business of the
best American wisdom and statesmanship. For it
involves the honour or dishonour, the glory or shame, the
happiness or misery, of the whole American people. It
not only touches the good name and fame of the Republic,
but its highest moral welfare and its permanent safety.
The evil with which it confronts us is coupled with a peril
at once great and increasing, and one which should be
removed,lf it can be, without delay.
EPIDEMIC OF MOB-LAW.
The presence of eight millions of people in any section
of this country, constituting an aggrieved class, smarting
under terrible wrongs, denied the exercise of the
commonest rights of humanity, and regarded by the ruling
class of that section as outside of the government, outside
of the law, outside of society, having nothing in common
with the people with whom they live, the sport of mob
violence and murder, is not only a disgrace and a scandal
to that particular section, but a menace to the peace and
security of the whole country. There is, as we all know,
a perfect epidemic of mob law and persecution now pre-
vailing at the South, and the indications of a speedy end
are not hopeful. Great and terrible as have been its
ravages in the past, it now seems to be increasing, not
only in the number of its victims, but in its frantic rage
and savage extravagance. Lawless vengeance is begin-
ninrr to be visited upon white men as well as black. Our
newspapers are daily disfigured by its ghastly horrors. It
is no longer local but national ; no longer confined to the
South but has invaded the North. The contagion is
spreading, extending and overleaping geographical lines
and state boundaries, and if permitted to go on, threatens
to destroy all respect for law and order, not only in the
South but in all parts of our common country, North as
well as South. For certain it is, that crime allowed to go
unpunished, unresisted and unarrested, will breed crime.
When the poison of anarchy is once in the air, like the
pestilence that walketh in darkness, the winds of heaven
will take it up and favour its diffusion. Though it may-
strike down the weak to-day, it will strike down the
Not a breeze comes to us from the late rebellious states
that is not tainted and freighted with Negro blood. In its
thirst for blood and its rage for vengeance, the moblias
blindly, boldly an^ defiantly supplanted sheriffs, con-
stables and police. Vlt has assumed all the functions of
civil authority.' It laughs at legal processes, courts and
juries, and its red-handed murderers range abroad
unchecked and unchallenged by law or by public opinion.
If the mob is in pursuit of Negroes who happen to be
accused of crime, innocent or guilty, prison walls and iron
bars afford no protection. Jail doors are battered down
in the presence of unresisting jailors, and the accused,
awaiting trial in the courts of law, are dragged out and
hanged, shot, stabbed or burned to death, as the blind and
irresponsible mob may elect.
We claim to be a highly-civilized and Christian
country. I will not stop to deny this claim, 3'-et I fear-
lessly affirm that there is nothing in the history of
savages to surpass the blood-chilling horrors and fiendish
excesses perpetrated against the coloured people of this
country, by the so-called enlightened and Christian
people of the South. It is commonly thought that only
the lowest and most disgusting birds and beasts, such as
buzzards, vultures and hyenas, will gloat over and prey
upon dead bodies ; but the Southern mob, in its rage,
feeds its vengeance by shooting, stabbing and burning
their victims, when they are dead.
Now, what is the special charge by which this ferocity
is justified, and by which mob law is excused and defended
even by good men North and South r It is a charge of
recent origin ; a charge never brought before ; a charge
never heard of in the time of slavery or in any other time
in our history. It is a charge of assaults by Negroes
upon white women. This new charge, once fairly started
on the wings of rumour, no matter by whom or in what
manner originated, whether well or ill-founded, whether
true or false, is certain to raise a mob and to subject the
accused to immediate torture and death. It is nothing
that there may be a mistake in his case as to identity.
It is nothing that the victim pleads " not guilty." It is
nothing that the accused is of fair reputation and his
accuser is of an abandoned character. It is nothing that
the majesty of the law is defied and insulted ; no time is
allowed for defence or explanation ; he is bound with
cords, hurried off amid the frantic yells and curses of the
mob to the scaffold, and there, under its ghastly shadow,
he is tortured, till by pain or promises, he is made to
think that he can possibly gain time or save his life by
confession— confesses — and then, whether guilty or innocent,
he is shot, hanged, stabbed or burned to death amid the
wild shouts of the mob. When the will of the mob is
accomplished, when its thirst for blood has been
quenched, when its victim is speechless, silent and dead,
his mobocratic accusers and murderers of course have the
ear of the world all to themselves, and the world, hearing
only the testimony of the mob, generally approves its
Such, then, is the state of Southern law and civilization
at this moment, in relation to the coloured citizens of that
section of our country. Though the picture is dark and
terrible, I venture to affirm that no man, North or South,
can successfully deny its essential truth.
ATTITUDE OF UPPER CLASSES.
Now the question arises, and it is important to know,
how this state of affairs is viewed by the better classes of
the Southern States. I will tell you, and I venture to say
in advance, if our hearts were not already hardened by
familiarity with crimes against the Negro, we should be
shocked and astonished, not only by these mobocratic
crimes, but by the attitude of the better classes of the
Southern people and ./their law-makers, towards the
perpetrators of them. With a few noble exceptions, just
enough to prove the rule, the upper classes of the South
seem to be in full sympathy with the mob and its deeds.
There are but few earnest words ever uttered against
either. Press, platform and pulpit are generally either
silent or they openly apologise for the mob and its deeds.
The mobocratic murderers are not only permitted to go
free, untried and unpunished, but are lauded and
applauded as honourable men and good citizens, the
hi'^h-miiided guardians of Southern virtue. If lynch law
is in any case condemned by them, it is only condemned
[ in one breath and excused in another.
The great trouble with the Negro in the South is that
all presumptions are against him. A white man has but
to blacken his face and commit a crime to have some
Negro lynched in his stead. An abandoned woman has
only to start a cry, true or false, that she has been
insulted by a black man, to have him arrested and
summarily murdered by the mob. Frightened and
tortured by his captors, confused, he may be, into telling
crooked stories about his whereabouts at the time when
the crime is alleged to have been committed, and the
death penalty is at once inflicted, though his story may
be but the incoherency of ignorance or the distraction
caused by terror.
In confirmation of what I have said, I have before me
the utterances of some of the best people of the South,
and also the testimony of one from the North, a lady of
high character, from whom, considering her antecedents,
we should have expected a more considerate, just and
In a late number of the Forum, Bishop Haygood,
author of the " Brother in Black," says that " The most
alarming fact is that execution by lynching has ceased to
surprise us. The burning of a human being for any
crime, it is thought, is a horror that does not occur outside
of the Southern states of the American Union, yet unless
assaults by Negroes come to an end, there will most
probably be still further display of vengeance that will
shock the world, and men who are just will consider the
In an open letter addressed to me by ex-Governor
Chamberlain, of South Carolina, published in the
Charleston News and Courier, in reply to an article of
mine on the subject of lynching, published in the North
American Review, the ex-Governor says: "Your
denunciation of the South on this point is directed
exclusively, or nearly so, against the application of lynch
law for the punishment of one crime ; the existence, I
suppose I might say the prevalence, of this crime at the
South is undeniable. But I read your article in vain for
any special denunciation of the crime itself As you say,
your people are lynched, tortured and burned, for assault
on white women. As you value your own good fame and
safety as a race, stamp out the infamous crime."
And now comes the sweet voice of a Northern woman,
Miss Frances Willard, of the W. C. T. U., distinguished.
among her sisters for benevolence and Christian charity.
She speaks in the same bitter tone and hurls against us
the same blasting accusation. She says in a letter now
before me, " I pity the Southerners. The problem in
their hands is immeasurable. The coloured race
multiplies like the locusts of Egypt. The safety of
women, of childhood, of the home, is menaced in a
thousand localities at this moment, so that men dare
not go beyond the sight of their own roof tree." Such,
then, is the crushing indictment drawn up against the
Southern Negroes, drawn up, too, by persons who are
perhaps the fairest and most humane of the Negro's
accusers. Yet even they paint him as a moral monster,
ferociously invading the sacred rights of woman and
endangering the homes of the whites.
INCRIMINATION OF THE WHOLE RACE.
Now, I hold, no less than his' accusers, that the crime
alleged against the Negro is the most revolting which
men can commit. It is a crime that awakens the
intensest abhorrence and tempts mankind to kill the
criminal on first sight.
But this charge thus brought against the Negro and as
constantly reiterated by his enemies, is plainly enough
not merely a charge against the individual culprit, as
would be the case with an individual of any other race,
but it is in large measure a charge constructively
against the coloured people as such. It throws over every
man of colour a mantle of odium, and sets upon him a
mark of popular hate, more distressing than the mark set
upon the first murderer. It points the Negro out as an
object of suspiciion, avoidance and hate.
It is in this form of the charge that you and I and all of
us are required to meet it and refute it, if that can be
done. In the opinion of some of us it were well to say
nothing about it, that the least said about it the better.
They would have us suffer quietly under the odium in
silence. In this I do not concur. Taking this charge in
its broad and comprehensive sense, the sense in which it
is presented and. as now stated, it strikes at the whole
coloured race, and, therefore, as a coloured man, I am
bound to meet it. I am grateful for the opportunity now
afforded me to meet it. For I believe it can be met and
met successfully. I hold that a people too spiritless to
defend themselves against unjust imputations, are not
worth defending, and are not worthy to defend anything
THE DEFENCE — "NOT GUILTY."
CHARACTER OF THEIR ACCUSERS CHALLENGED.
Without boasting in advance, but relying upon the
goodness of my cause, I will say here I am ready to
confront Ex-Governor Chamberlain, Bishop Fitzgerald,
Bishop Haygood and good Miss Frances Willard and all
others, singly or altogether, who bring this charge
against the coloured people as a class.
But I want however, to be clearly understood at the outset.
I do not pretend that Negroes are saints and angels. I do
not deny that they are capable of committing the crime
imputed to them, but utterly deny that they are any more
addicted to the commission of that crime than is true of
any other variety of the human family. In entering upon
my argument, I may be allowed to say again what should
be taken for granted at the start, that I am not a defender
of any man guilty of this atrocious crime, but a defender
of the coloured people as a class.
In answer, then, to the terrible indictment thus read,
and speaking for the coloured people as a class, I venture
in their name and in their stead, here and now, to plead
" not guilty," and shall submit my case with confidence of
acquittal by good men and women. North and South,
before whom we are, as a class, now being tried. In daring
to do this I know that the moral atmosphere about me is not
favourable to my cause. The sentiment left by slavery is
still with us, and the moral vision of the American people
is still darkened by its presence.
It is the misfortune of the coloured people of this
country that the sins of the few are visited more or less
upon the many. In respect to the offenders, I am
with General Grant and every other honest man. My
motto is, " Let no guilty man escape." But while I say
this, and mean to say it strongly, I am also here to say, let
no guilty man be condemned and killed by the mob, or
crushed under the weight of a charge of which he is not
I need not be told that the cause I have undertaken to
support is not to be maintained by any mere confident
assertions or general denials, however strongly worded.
If I had no better ground to stand upon than this, I
would at once leave the field of controversy and give up
the coloured man's cause to his accusers. I am also
aware that I am here to do in some measure what the
masters of logic say is impossible to be done. I know that I
cannot prove a negative ; there is one thing that I can
and will do. I will call in question the affirmative. I
can and will show that there are sound reasons for
doubting and denying this horrible charge of rape as the
special and peculiar crime of the coloured people of the
South. I doubt it, and deny it with all my soul. My
doubt and denial are based upon three fundamental
The first ground is, the well-established and well-
tested character of the Negro on the very point upon
which he is now so violently and persistently accused. I
contend that his whole history in bondage and out of
bondage contradicts and gives the lie to the allegation.
My second ground for doubt and denial is based upon
what I know of the character and antecedents of the men
and women who bring this charge against him. My third
ground is the palpable unfitness of the mob to testify and
which is the main witness in the case.
I therefore affirm that a fierce and frenzied mob is not
and ought not to be deemed a competent witness against
any man accused of any crime whatever, and especially
the crime now in question. The ease with which a mob
can be collected, the slight causes by which it can be set
in motion, and the element of which it is composed,
deprives its testimony of the qualities necessary to sound
judgment and that which should inspire confidence and
command belief. Blinded by its own fury, it is moved
by impulses utterly unfavourable to a clear perception of
facts and the ability to make an impartial statement of the
simple truth. At the outset, I challenge the credibility of
the mob, and as the mob is the main witness in the case
against the Negro I appeal from the judgment of the mob
to the judgment of law-abiding men, in support of my
challenge. I lay special emphasis on the fact that it is
the mob and the mob only that the country has
recognised and accepted as its accredited witness against
the Negro. The mob is its law, its judge, jury and
executioner. I need not argue this point further. Its
truth is borne upon its face.
But I go further. I dare not only to impeach the mob,
I impeach and discredit the veracity of men generally,
whether mobocrats or otherwise who sympathise with
lynch law, whenever or wherever the acts of coloured
men are in question. It seems impossible for such men to
judge a coloured man fairly. I hold that men who openly
and deliberately nullify the laws and violate the provisions
of the Constitution of their country, which they have
solemnly sworn to support and execute, are not entitled to
unqualified belief in any case, and certainly not in the
case of the Negro. I apply to them the legal maxim,
"False in one, false in all." Especially do I apply this
ma5,iiTi when the conduct of the Negro is in question.
VAgain I question the Negro's accusers on another
important ground ; I have no confidence in the veracity
of men who publicly justify themselves in cheatino- the
Negro out of his constitutional right to vote. The men
who do this, either by false returns, or by taking
advantage of the Negro's illiteracy, or by surrounding the
ballot box with obstacles and sinuosiries intended to
bewilder him and defeat his rightful exercise of the
elective franchise, are men who should not be believed on
oath. That this is done and approved in Southern States
is notorious. It has been openly defended by so-called
honest men inside and outside of Congress.
I met this shameless defence of crime face to face at
the late Chicago Auxiliary Congress, during the World's
Columbian Exposition, in a solemn paper by Prof. Weeks,
of North Carolina, who boldly advocated this kind of
fraud as necessary and justifiable in order to secure
Anglo-Saxon supremacy, and in doing so, as I believe,
he voiced the moral sentiment of Southern men
Now, men who openly defraud the Negro of his vote by
all manner of artifice, who justify it and boast of it in the
face of the world's civilization, as was done by Prof.
Weeks at Chicago, I hardly need say that such men are
not to be depended upon for truth in any case where the
rights of the Negro are involved. Their testimony in the
case of any other people than the Negro would be
instantly and utterly discredited, and why not the same in
this case .? Every honest man will see that this point is
well taken. It has for its support common sense,
common honesty, and the best sentiment of mankind. On
the other hand, it has nothing to oppose it but a vulgar,
popular prejudice against the coloured people of our
country, a prejudice which we all know strikes men with
moral blindness and renders them incapable of seeing
any distinction between right and wrong where coloured
people are concerned.
THE NEGRO'S CLEAN RECORD DURING WAR TIME.
But I come to a stronger position. I rest my denial
not merely upon general principles but upon well-known
facts. I reject the charge brought against the Negro as a
class, because all through the late war, while the slave-
masters of the South were absent from their homes, in
the field of rebellion, with bullets in their pockets,
treason in their hearts, broad blades in their bloody
hands, seeking the life of the nation, with the vile purpose
of perpetuating the enslavement of the Negro, their
wives, their daughters, their sisters and their mothers
were 'left in the absolute custody of these same Negroes,
and during all those long four years of terrible conflict,
when the Negro had every opportunity to commit the
abominable crime now alleged against him, there was
never a single instance of such crime reported or charged
against him. He was never accused of assault, insult, or
an attempt to commit an assault upon any white woman
in the whole South. A fact like this, though negative,
speaks volumes, and ought to have some weight with
the American people on the present question.
Then, again, on general principles, I do not believe the
charge, because it implies an improbable change, if not
an impossible change in the mental and moral character
and composition of the Negro. It implies a radical
change wholly inconsistent with the well-known facts of
human nature. It is a contradiction to human experience.
History does not present an example of a transformation
in the character of any class of men so extreme, so
unnatural and so complete as is implied in this charge.
The change is too great and the period for it too brief.
Instances may be cited where men fall like stars from
heaven, but such is not the usual experience with the
masses. Decline in the moral character of such is not
sudden, but gradual. The downward steps are marked at
first by slow degrees and by increasing momentum,
going from bad to worse as they proceed. Time is an
element in such changes, and I contend that the Negroes
of the South have not had time to experience this great
change and reach this lower depth of infamy. On the
contrary, in point of fact, they have been, and still are,
improving and ascending to higher and still higher levels
of moral and social worth.
EXCUSES FOR LYNCHING — DELICACY OF SUBJECT;
POSSIBILITY OF CRIMINAL'S ESCAPE FROM JUSTICE.
Again I utterly deny the charge on the fundamental
ground that those who bring the charge do not and dare
not give the Negro a chance to be heard in his own
defence. He is not allowed to show the deceptive
conditions out of which the charge has originated. He is
not allowed to vindicate his own character from blame, or
to criminate the character and motives of his accusers.
Even the mobocrats themselves admit that it would ba
fatal to their purpose to have the character of the Negro's
accusers brought into court. They pretend to a delicate
regard for the feelings of the parties alleged to have been
assaulted. They are too modest to have them brought
into court. They are, therefore, for lynching and against
giving a fair trial to the accused. This excuse, it is
needless to say, is contemptible and hypocritical. It is
not only mock modesty, but mob modesty. Men who can
collect hundreds and thousands of their kind, if we
believe them, thirsting for vengeance, and can spread
before them in the tempest and whirlwind of vulgar
passion, the most disgusting details of crime, connecting
the names of women with the same, should not be allowed
to shelter themselves under any pretence of modesty.
Such a pretence is absurd and shameless upon the face of
it. Who does not know that the modesty of womanhood
is always and in every such case an object for special
protection in a court of law ? On the other hand, who
does not know that a lawless mob, composed in part of
the basest men, can have no such respect for the modesty
of women, as has a court of law. No woman need be
ashamed to confront one who has insulted or assaulted
her in any court of law. Besides, innocence does not
hesitate to come to the rescue of justice, and need not
even in this Cc.se.
Again, I do not believe it, and deny it because if the
evidence were deemed sufficient to bring the accused to
the scaffold by a verdict of an impartial jury, there could
be and would be no objection to having the alleged
offender tried in conformity to due process of law.
The only excuse for lynch law, which has a shadow of
support in it is, that the criminal would probably
otherwise be allowed to escape the punishment due to his
crime. But this excuse is not employed by the lynchers,
though it is sometimes so employed by those who
apologise for the lynchers. But for it there is no
foundation whatever, in a country like the South, where
public opinion, the laws, the courts, the juries, the
advocates, are all against the Negro, especially one
alleged to be guilty of the crime now charged. That
such an one would be permitted to escape condign
punishment, is not only untenable but an insult to
common sense. The chances are that not even an
innocent Negro so charged would be allowed to escape.
THE THREE STAGES OF NEGRO PERSECUTION.
THEIR OBJECT— HIS DISFRANCHISEMENT.
But I come to another fact, and an all important fact,
bearing upon this case. You will remember that during
all the first years of reconstruction, and long after the
war, Negroes were slain b}^ scores. The world was
shocked by these murders, so that the Southern press and
people found it necessary to invent, adopt and propagate
almost every species of falsehood to create sympathy for
themselves, and to formulate excuses for thus gratifying
their brutal instincts against the Negro ; there was never
at that time a charge made against any Negro involving
an assault upon any white woman or upon little white
children in all the South. During all this time the white
women and children were absolutely safe. During all
this time there was no call for Miss Willard's pity, or for
Bishop Haygood's defence of burning Negroes to death,
but killing Negroes went on all the same.
You will remember also that during this time the
justification for the murder of Negroes was said to be
Negro conspiracies, Negro insurrections, Negro schemes
to murder all the white people, Negro plots to burn the
town and to commit violence generally. These were the
excuses then depended upon, but never a word was then
said or whispered about Negro outrages upon white
women and children. So far as the history of that time
is concerned, white women and children were absolutely-
safe, and husbands and fathers could leave their homes
without the slightest anxiety for the safety of their
families. But now mark the change and the reasons for
the change. When events proved that no such
conspiracies, no such insurrections as were then pretended
to exist, and which were then paraded before the world in
glaring headlines in the columns of nearly all our
newspapers, had ever existed or were even meditated —
when these excuses had run their course and had served
their wicked purpose, when the huts of the Negroes had
been searched, and searched in vain for guns and
ammunition to prove these charges against the Negro,
and no such proof was found, when there was no way open
thereafter to prove these charges against the Negro, and
no way to make the North believe in them, they did not
even then bring forward the present allegation, but went
on harassing and killing Negroes just the same. But
this time they based their right to kill on the ground that
it was necessary to check the domination and supremacy
of the Negro and to secure the absolute rule of the
It is important to notice and emphasize here the
significant fact that there has been three distinct periods
of persecutions of the Negroes in the South, and three
distinct sets of excuses for this persecution. They have
come along precisely in the order they were most needed.
Each was made to fit its special place. First, you
remember, as I have said, it was insurrection. When
that wore out, Negro supremacy became the excuse.
When that was worn out, then came the charge of assault
upon defenceless women. I undertake to say that this
orderly arrangement and periodicity of excuses are
significant. They mean something, and should not be
overlooked. They show design, plan, purpose and
invention. And now that Negro insurrection and Negro
domination are no longer defensible as an excuse for
Negro persecution, there has come in due course another
suited to the occasion, and that is the heart-rending cry
of the white women and little white children.
Now, my friends, I ask what is the manifest meaning of
this charge at this time r What is the meaning of the
singular omission of this charge during the two periods
preceding the present r Why was not this charge made
at that time as now r The Negro was the same man then
as to-day. Why, I ask again, was not this dreadful
charge brought forward against the Negro in war times
and in reconstruction times r Had it existed either in
war times or during reconstruction, does any man doubt
that it would have been added to the other charges and
proclaimed upon the house-tops and at the street corners,
as this charge is at present r
I will answer the question : or you yourselves have
already given the true answer. For the plain and only
rational explanation is that there was at the times
specified no foundation for such a charge, or that the
charge itself was either not thought of, or if thought of
it was not deemed necessary to excuse the lawless
violence with which the Negro was then pursued and
killed. The old charges already enumerated were
deemed all sufficient.
Things have changed since then, and the old excuses
are not now available. The times have changed, and the
Negro's accusers have found it necessary to change with
them. They have been compelled to invent a new charge
to suit the times. The old charges are no longer valid.
Upon them the good opinion of the North and of
mankind cannot be secured. Honest men no longer
believe that there is any ground to apprehend Negro
supremacy. Times and events have swept away these old
refuges of lies. They were once powerful. They did
their work in their day and did it with terrible energy and
effect, but they are now cast aside as useless. The lie
has lost its ability to deceive. The altered times and
circumstances have made necessary a sterner, stronger
and more effective justification of Southern barbarism,
and hence we have, according to my theory, to look into
the face of a more shocking and blasting charge than
either Negro supremacy or Negro insurrection.
I insist upon it that this new charge has come at the
call of new conditions, and that nothing could have been
hit upon better calculated to accomplish its brutal
purpose. It clouds the character of the Negro with a
crime the most shocking that men can commit, and is
fitted to drive from the criminal all pity and all fair play
and all mercy. It is a crime that places him outside of
the pale of the law, and settles upon his shoulders a
mantle of wrath and fire, that blisters and burns into his
It is for this purpose, it seems to me, that this new
charge, unthought of and unknown in the times to which
I have referred, has been largely invented and thundered
against us. It is for this purpose that it has been
constantly reiterated and adopted. It was intended to
blast and ruin the Negro's character as a man and a
citizen. I need not tell you how thoroughly it has
already done its work. The Negro may and does feel its
malign influence in the very air he breathes. He may
read it in the faces of men among whom he moves. It
has cooled his friends ; it has heated his enemies and
arrested at home and abroad, in some measure, the generous
efforts that good men were wont to make for his improve-
ment and elevation. It has deceived his friends at the
North and many good friends at the South, for nearly all
of them, in some measure, have accepted this charge
against the Negro as true. Its perpetual reiteration in
our newspapers and magazines has led men and women
to regard him with averted eyes, dark suspicion and
Some of the Southern papers have denounced me for
my unbelief in this charge and in this new crusade
against the Negro, but I repeat I do not believe it, and
firmly deny the grounds upon which it is based. I reject
it because I see in it evidence of an invention called into
being by a well-defined motive, a motive sufficient to
stamp it as a gross expedient to justify murderous assault
upon a long enslaved and hence a hated people. —
I not only reject it because it bears upon its face the
marks of being a fraud, a make-shift for a malignant
purpose, but because it has sprung upon the country
simultaneously, and in manifest co-operation with a
declared purpose and a well-known effort, and I may say
a fixed determination to degrade the Negro by judicial
decisions, by legislative enactments, by repealing all laws
for the protection of the ballot, by drawing the colour
line in all railroad cars and stations and in all other public
places in the South, thus to pave the way to a final
consummation which is nothing less than the Negro's
entire disenfranchisement as an American citizen. It is
to this great end that all the charges and complaints
against the Negro are directed and are made to converge.
This is and has been from first to last the grand and all-
commanding object in view. It is a part of a well-
devised reactionary movement against the Negro as a
citizen. The old master class are wise in their day and
generation. They know if they can once divest the
Negro of the elective franchise and nullify his citizenship,
the partition wall between him and slavery will no longer
exist, and no man can tell where the reaction will stop.
THE ATTACK LESS UPON CRLSIE THAN COLOUR.
Again, I do not believe it, and deny it, because the
charge is not so much against the crime itself, as against
the colour of the people alleged to be guilty of it.
Slavery itself, you will remember, was a system of
unmitigated, legalised outrage upon black women of the
South, and no white man was ever shot, burned or hanged
for availing himself of all the power that slavery gave
him at this point.
To sum up my arg'ument on this lynching business, it
remains to be said that I have shown that the Negro's
accusers in this case have violated their oaths, and have
cheated the Negro out of his vote ; that they have robbed
and defrauded the Negro systematically and persistently,
and have boasted of it. I have shown that when the
Negro had every opportunity to commit the crime now
charged against him, he was never accused of it by his
bitterest enemies. I have shown that during all the years
of reconstruction, when he was being murdered at
Hamburg, Yazoo, New Orleans, Copiah and elsewhere,
he was never accused at that time of the crime now
charged against him. 1 have shown that in the nature of
things no such change in the character and composition
of a whole people, as this implies, could have taken place
within the limited period allowed for it. I have shown
that those who accuse him dare not confront him in a court
of law and have their witnesses subjected to proper legal
inquiry. I have shown from the very constitution of a
mob, the slight causes by which it may be created, and the
sentiment by which it is impelled, it cannot be depended
upon for either truth or justice. I have shown that its
sole aim is to execute, not to find a true verdict. And
showing all this and more, I have shown that they who
charge the Negro with this foul crime, in such
circumstances, may be justly doubted and deemed
unworthy of belief.
OBJECTIONS ANSWERED : PECULIARITIES OF SOUTHERN
SENTIMENT. LACK OF RESPECT FOR HUMAN LIFE.
But I now come to a grave objection to my theory of
this violent persecution. I shall be told by many of my
Northern friends that my argument, though plausible, is
not conclusive. It will be said that the charges against
the Negro are specific and positive, and that there must
be some foundation for them, because, as they allege, men
in their normal condition do not shoot, hang and burn
their fellow men who are guiltless of crime. Well ! This
assumption is very just and very charitable. I only wish
that something like the same justice and the same charity
shall be shown to the Negro. All credit is due and is
accorded to our Northern friends for their humane
judgment of the South. Humane themselves, they are
slow to believe that the mobocrats are less humane
than themselves. Their hearts are right but their heads are
wrong. They apply a genera.1 rule to a special case.
They forget that neither the mob nor its victims are in a
normal condition. Both are exceptions to the general
rule. The force of the argument against my version of
the case is the assumption that the lynchers are like
other men and that the Negro has the same hold on the
protection of society that other men have. Neither
assumption is true. The lynchers and mobocrats are not
like other men, nor is the Negro hedged about by the
same protection accorded other members of society.
The point I make, then, is this. That I -am not, in this
case, dealing v\/ith men in their natural condition. I am
dealing with men brought up in the exercise of
irresponsible power. I am dealing with men whose ideas,
habits and customs are entirely different from those of
ordinary men. It is, therefore, quite gratuitous to assume
that the principles that apply to other men, apply to the
lynchers and murderers of the Negro. The rules resting
upon the justice and benevolence of human nature do not
apply to the mobocrats, or to those who were educated in
the habits and customs of a slave-holding community.
What these habits are I have a right to know, both in
theory and practice. Whoever has read the laws of the
late slave states relating to the Negroes, will see what I
I repeat, the mistake made by those who, on this
ground, object to my theory of the charge against the
Negro, is that they overlook the natural influence of the
life, education and habits of the lynchers. We must
remember that these people have not now and have never
had any such respect for human life as is common to other
men. They have had among them for centuries a peculiar
institution, and that peculiar institution has stamped them
as a peculiar people. They were not before the war, they
were not during the war, and have not been since the war,
in their spirit or in their civilization, a people in common
with the people of the North, or the civilized world. I
will not here harrow up your feelings by detailing their
treatment of Northern prisoners during the war. Their
institutions have taught them no respect for human life,
and especially the life of the Negro. It has, in fact,
taught them absolute contempt for his life. The
sacredness of life which ordinary men feel does not touch
them anywhere. A dead Negro is with them now, as
before, a common jest.
They care no more for the Negro's rights to live than
they care for his rights to liberty, or his right to the ballot
or any other right. Chief Justice Taney told the exact
truth about these people when he said: "They did not
consider that the black man had any rights which white
men were bound to respect." No man of the South ever
called in question that statement, and no man ever will.
They could always shoot, stab, hang and burn the Negro,
without any such remorse or shame as other men would
feel after committing such a crimiC. Any Southern man,
who is honest and is frank enough to talk on the subject,
will tell you that he has no such idea as we have of the
sacredness of human rights, and especially, as I have
said, of the life of the Negro. Hence it is absurd to meet
my arguments with the facts predicated of our common
I know that I shall be charged with apologising for
criminals. Ex-Governor Chamberlain has already
virtually done as much. But there is no foundation for
such charge. I affirm that neither I nor any other
coloured man of like standing with myself has ever
raised a linger or uttered a word in defence of any man,
black or white, known to be guilty of the dreadful crime
now in question.
But what I contend for, and what every honest man,
black or white, has a right to contend for, is that when
any man is accused of this or any other crime, of whatever
name, nature, degree or extent, he shall have the benefit
of a legal investigation ; that he shall be confronted by
his accusers ; and that he shall, through proper counsel,
be allowed to question his accusers in open court and in
open daylight, so that his guilt or his innocence may be
duly proved and established.
If this is to make me liable to the charge of apologising
for crime, I am not ashamed to be so charged. I dare to
contend for the coloured people of the United States that
they are a law-abiding people, and J dare to insist
upon it that they or any other people, black or white,
accused of crime, shall have a fair trial before they are
GENERAL UNFAIRNESS — THE CHICAGO EXHIBITION, ETC.
Again, I cannot dwell too much upon the fact that
coloured people are much damaged by this charge. As
an injured class we have a right to appeal from the
judgment of the mob, to the judgment of the law and to
the justice of the American people.
Full well our enemies have known where to strike and
how to stab us most fatally. Owing to popular prejudice,
it has become the misfortune of the coloured people of the
South and of the North as well, to have, as I have said, the
sins of the few visited upon the many.
When a white man steals, robs or murders, his crime is
visited upon his own head alone. But not so with the
black man. When he commits a crime, the whole race is
made responsible. The case before us is an example.
This unfairness confronts us not only here but it confronts
us everywhere else.
Even when American art undertakes to picture the types
of the two races, it invariably places in comparison, not the
best of both races as common fairness would dictate, but
it puts side by side and in glaring contrast, the lowest type
of the Negro with the highest type of the white man and
then calls upon the world to " look upon this picture, then
When a black man's language is quoted, in order to be-
little and degrade him, his ideas are often put in the most
grotesque and unreadable English, while the utterances of
Negro scholars and authors are ignored. To-day, So-
journer Truth is more readily quoted than Alexander
Cromwell or Dr. James McCune Smith. A hundred white
men will attend a concert of counterfeit Negro minstrels,
with faces blackened with burnt cork, to one who will
attend a lecture by an intelligent Negro.
Even the late World's Columbian Exposition was guilty
of this unfairness. While I join with all other men in pro-
nouncing the Exposition itself one of the grandest demon-
strations of civilization that the world has ever seen, yet
great and glorious as it was, it was made to show just this
kind of injustice and discrimination against the Negro.
As nowhere in the world, it was hoped that here the idea
of human brotherhood would have been grandly recognized
and most gloriously illustrated. It should have been thus
and would have been thus, had it been what it professed to
be, a World's Exposition. It was not such, however, in its
spirit at this point ; it was only an American Exposition.
The spirit of American caste against the educated Negro
was conspicuously seen from start to finish, and to this
extent the Exposition was made simply an American
Exposition instead of a World's Exposition.
Since the day of Pentecost there was never assembled
in anyone place or on any one occasion a larger variety of
peoples of all forms, features and colors and all degrees of
civilization, than was assembled at this World's Exposition.
It was a grand ethnological object lesson, a fine chance to
study all likenesses and all differences of mankind. Here
were Japanese, Soudanese, Chinese, Singalese, Syrians
Persians, Tunisians, Algerians, Egyptians, East Indians,
Laplanders, Esquimaux, and, as if to shame the educated
Negro of America, the Dahomeyans were there to exhibit
their barbarism and increase American contempt for the
Negro intellect. All classes and conditions were there
save the educated American Negro. He ought to have
been there, if only to show what American slavery and
American freedom have done for him. The fact that all
other nations were there at their best, made the Negro's
exclusion the more pronounced and the more significant.
People from abroad noticed the fact thtit while we have
eight millions of colored people in the United States,
many of them gentlemen and scholars, not one ot them
was deemed worthy to be appointed a Commissioner, or a
member of an important committee, or a guide or a guard
on the Exposition grounds, and this was evidently an in-
tentional slight to the race. What a commentary is this
upon the liberality of our boasted American liberty and
American equality ! It is a silent example, to be sure, but
it is one that speaks louder than words. It says to the
world that the colored people of America are not deemed
by Americans as within the compass of American law,
progress and civilization. It says to the lynchers and
mobocrats of the South, go on in your hellish work of
Negro persecution. You kill their bodies, we kill their souls.
NEGRO SUFFRAGE : ATTEMPT TO ABRIDGE THE RIGHT.
THE LOWLY NEED ITS PROTECTION.
But now a word on the question of Negro suffrage. It
has come to be fashionable of late to ascribe much of the
trouble at the South to ignorant Negro suffrage. That
great measure recommended by General Grant and
adopted by the loyal nation, is now denounced as a blunder
and a failure. The proposition now is, therefore, to find
some way to abridge and limit this right by imposing
upon it an educational or some other qualification.
Among those who take this view of the question are Mr.
John J. Ingalls and Mr. John M. Langston, one white and
the other colored. They are both distinguished leaders ;
the one is the leader of the whites and the other is the
leader of the blacks. They are both eloquent, both able,
and both wrong. Though they are both Johns, neither of
them is to my mind a "St. John," and not even a "John
the Baptist." They have taken up an idea which they
seem to think quite new, but which in reality is as old
as despotism, and about as narrow and selfish as
despotism. It has been heard and answered a thousand
times over. It is the argument of the crowned heads and
privileged classes of the world. It is as good against our
Republican form of government as it is against the Negro.
The wonder is that its votaries do not see its consequences.
It does away with that noble and just idea of Abraham
Lincoln that our government should be a government of
the people, by the people and for the people and for all the
These gentlemen are very learned, very eloquent and
very able, but I cannot follow them in this effort to restrict
voting to the educated classes. Much learning has made
them mad. Education is great but manhood is greater.
The one is the principle, the other the accident. Man was
not made as an attribute to education, but education as an
attribute to man. I say to these gentlemen, first protect
the man and you will thereby protect education. Do not
make illiteracy a bar to the ballot, but make the ballot a
bar to illiteracy. Take the ballot from the Negro and you
take from him the means and motives that make for educa-
tion. Those who are already educated and are vested with
political power have thereby an advantage which they are
not likely to divide with the Negro, especially when they
have a fixed purpose to make this entirely a white man's
government. I cannot, therefore, follow these gentlemen
in a path so dangerous to the Negro. I would not make
suffrage more exclusive but more inclusive. I would not
have it embrace only the 61ite, but I would have it include
the lowly. I would not only include the men, but would
gladly include the women, and make our government in
reality, as in name, a government by the people, of the
people, and for the whole people.
But, manifestly, it is all nonsense to make suffrage to
the coloured people, the cause of the failure of good
government in the Southern states. On the contrary it is
the lawless limitation of suffrage that makes the trouble.
Much thoughtless speech is heard about the ignorance
of the Negro in the South. But plainly enough, it is not
the ignorance of the Negro but the malevolence of his
accusers, which is the real cause of Southern disorder. It
is easy to show that the illiteracy of the Negro has no part
or lot in the disturbances there. They who contend for
disfranchisement on this ground, know, and know very
well, that there is no truth whatever in their contention.
To make out their case, they must show that some oppres-
sive and hurtful measure has been imposed upon the
country by Negro voters. But they cannot show any such
thing and they know it.
The Negro has never set up a separate party, never
adopted a Negro platform, never proclaimed or adopted a
separate policy for himself or for the country. His
assailants know this and know that he has never acted
apart from the whole American people. They know that
he has never sought to lead, but has always been content
to follow. They know that he has not made his ignorance
the rule of his political conduct, but he has been guided by
the rule of white men. They know that he simply kept
pace wath the average intelligence of his age and country.
They know that he has gone steadily along in the line of
his politics with the most enlightened citizens of the
country and that he has never gone faster or farther. They
know that he has always voted with one or the other of
the two great political parties. They know that if the
votes of these parties have been guided by intelligence
and patriotism, the same must be said of the vote of the
Negro. Knowing all this, they ought to know also, that it
is a shame and an outrage upon common sense and fair
dealing to hold him or his suffrage responsible for any
disorder that may reign in the Southern States. Yet
while any lie may be safely told against the Negro and
will be credited by popular prejudice, this lie will find
eloquent tongues, bold and shameless enough to tell it.
It is true that the Negro once voted solidly for the can-
didates of the republican party ; but what if he did r He
then only voted with John ]\Iercer Langston, John J.
Ingalls, John Sherman, General Harrison, Senator Hoar,
Henry Cabot Todge and Governor McKinley and many of
the most intelligent statesmen and noblest patriots of
whom this country can boast. The charge against him at
this time is, therefore, utterly groundless and is used for
fraud, violence and persecution.
The proposition to disfranchise the coloured voter of the
South in order to solve the race problem, I therefore
denounce as a false and cowardly proposition, utterl}^
unworthy of an honest and grateful nation. It is a propo-
sition to sacrifice friends in order to conciliate enemies ; to
surrender the constitution for the lack of moral courage to
execute its provisions. It is a proclamation of the help-
lessness of the Nation to protect its own citizens. It says
to the coloured citizen, " We cannot protect you, we there-
fore propose to join your oppressors. Your suffrage has
been rendered a failure by violence, and we now propose
to make it a failure by law."
Than this, there was never a surrender more dishonor-
able, more ungrateful, or more cowardly. Any statesman,
black or white, who dares to support such a scheme by any
concession, deserves no worse punishment than to be
allowed to stay at home, deprived of all legislative trusts
until he repents. Even then he should only be received
DECADENCE OF THE SPIRIT OF LIBERTY.
Do not ask me what will be the final result of the so-
called Negro problem. I cannot tell you. I have some-
times thought that the American people are too great to
be small, too just and magnanimous to oppress the weak,
too brave to yield up the right to the strong, and too
grateful for public services ever to forget them or to reward
them. I have fondly hoped that this estimate of American
character would soon cease to be contradicted or put in
doubt. But events have made me doubtful. The favour
with which this proposition of disfranchisement has been
received by public men, white and black, by republicans
as well as democrats, has shaken my faith in the nobility
of the nation. I hope and trust all will come out right in
the end, but the immediate future looks dark and troubled.
I cannot shut my eyes to the ugly facts before me.
Strange things have happened of late and are still
happening. Some of these tend to dim the lustre of the
American name, and chill the hopes once entertained for
the cause of American liberty. He is a wiser man than I
am who can tell how low the moral sentiment of the
Republic may yet fall. When the moral sense of a nation
begins to decline, and the wheels of progress to roll
backward, there is no telling how low the one will fall or
where the other will stop. The downward tendency,
already manifest, has swept away some of the most
important safeguards of justice and liberty. The Supreme
Court, has, in a measure, surrendered. State sovereignty
is essentially restored. The Civil Rights Bill is impaired.
The Republican party is converted into a party of money,
rather than a party of humanity and justice. We may
well ask, what next r
The pit of hell is said to be bottomless. Principles
which we all thought to have been firmly and permanently
settled by the late war have been boldly assaulted and
overthrown by the defeated party. Rebel rule is now
nearly complete in many states, and it is gradually
capturing the nation's Congress. The cause lost in the
war is the cause regained in peace, and the cause gained
in war is the cause lost in peace.
There was a threat made long ago by an American
statesman that the whole body of legislation enacted for
the protection of American liberty and to secure the
results of the war for the Union, should be blotted from
the national statute bock. That threat is now being
sternly pursued and may 57et be fully realised. The
repeal of the laws intended to protect the elective
franchise has heightened the suspicion that Southern rule
may yet become complete, though, I trust, not permanent.
There is no denying that the trend is in the wrong
direction at present. The late election, however, gives
us hope that the loyal Republican party may yet return
to its first love.
DELUSIVE COLONISATION SCHEMES.
But I now come to another proposition, held up as a
solution of the race problem, and this I consider equally
unworthy with the one just disposed of. The two belong
to the same low-bred family of ideas.
It is the proposition to colonize the coloured people of
America in Africa, or somewhere else. Happily this
scheme will be defeated, both by its impolicy and its
impracticability. It is all nonsense to talk about the
removal of eight millions of the American people from
their liomes in America to Africa. The expense and
hardships, to say nothing of the cruelty attending such a
measure, would make success impossible. The American
people are wicked, but they are not fools ; they will
hardly be disposed to incur the expense, to say nothing of
the injustice which this measure demands. Nevertheless,
this colonizing scheme, unworthy as it is of American
statesmanship, and American honour, and though full of
mischief to the coloured people, seems to have a strong
hold on the public mind, and at times has shown much
life and vigor.
The bad thing about it is, that it has, of late, owing to
persecution, begun to be advocated by coloured men of
acknowledged ability and learning, and every little while
some white statesman becomes its advocate. Those
gentlemen will doubtless have their opinion of me ; I
certainly have mine of them. My opinion is, that if they
are sensible, they are insincere ; and if they are sincere,
they are not sensible. They know, or they ought to
know that it would take more money than the cost of the
late war, to transport even one half of the coloured people
of the United States to Africa. Whether intentionally or
not, they are, as I think, simply trifling with an afflicted
people. They urge them to look for relief where they ought
to know that relief is impossible. The only excuse they
can make for the measure is that there is no hope for the
Negro here, and that the coloured people in America owe
something to Africa.
This last sentimental idea makes colonization very
fascinating to the dreamers of both colours. But there is
really no foundation for it.
They tell us that we owe something to our native land.
This sounds well. But when the fact is brought to view,
which should never be forgotten, that a man can only have
one native land and that is the land in which he is born,
the bottom falls entirely out of this sentimental argument.
Africa, according to her colonization advocates, is by
no means modest in her demands upon us. She calls
upon us to send her only our best men. She does not
want our riff-raff, but our best men. But these are just
the men who are valuable and who are wanted at home.
It is true that we have a few preachers and laymen with a
missionary turn of mind whom we might easily spare.
Some who would possibly do as much good by going there
as by staying here. By this is not the colonization idea.
Its advocates want not only the best, but millions of the
best. Better still, they want the United States Govern-
ment to vote the money to send them there. They do not
seem to see that if the Government votes money to send
the Negro to Africa, that the Government may employ
means to complete the arrangement and compel us to go.
Now I hold that the American Negro owes no more to
the Negroes in Africa than he owes to the Negroes in
America. There are millions of needy people over there,
but there are also millions of needy people over here as
well, and the millions in America need intelligent men of
their number to help them, as much as intelligent men are
needed in Africa to help her people. Besides, we have a
fight on our hands right here, a fight for the redemption
of the whole race, and a blow struck successfully for the
Negro in America, is a blow struck for the Negro in Africa.
For, until the Negro is respected in America, he need not
expect consideration elsewhere. All this native land talk.
however, is nonsense. The native land of the American
Negro is America. His bones, his muscles, his sinews,
are all American. His ancestors for two hundred and
seventy years have lived and laboured and died, on
American soil, and millions of his posterity have inherited
It is pertinent, therefore, to ask, in view of this
admixture, as well as in view of other facts, where the
people of this mixed race are to go, for their ancestors
are white and black, and it will be difficult to find their
native land anywhere outside of the United States.
But the worst thing, perhaps, about this colonization
nonsense is, that it tends to throw over the Negro a
mantle of despair. It leads him to doubt the possibility
of his progess as an American citizen. It also encourages
popular prejudice with the hope that by persecution or by
persuasion, the Negro can finally be dislodged and driven
from his natural home, while in the nature of the case he
must stay here and will stay here, if for no other reason
than because he cannot well get away.
I object to the colonization scheme, because it tends to
weaken the Negro's hold on one country, while it can give
him no rational hope of another. Its tendency is to make
him despondent and doubtful, where he should feel assured
and confident. It forces upon him the idea that he is for
ever doomed to be a stranger and a sojourner in the land of
his birth, and that he has no permanent abiding place here.
All this is hurtful ; with such ideas constantly flaunted
before him, he cannot easily set himself to work to better
his condition in such ways as are open to him here. It
sets him to groping everlastingly after the impossible.
Every man who thinks at all, must know that home is
the fountain head, the inspiration, the foundation and main
support, not only of all social virtue but of all motives to
human progress, and that no people can prosper, or amount
to much, unless they have a home, or the hope of a home.
A man who has not such an object, either in possession or
in prospect, is a nobody and will never be anything else.
To have a home, the Negro must have a country, and he is
an enemy to the moral progress of the Negro, whether he
knows it or not, who calls upon him to break up his home
in this country, for an uncertain home in Africa.
But the agitation on this subject has a darker side still.
It has already been given out that if we do not go of our
own accord, we may be forced to go, at the point of the
bayonet. I cannot say that we shall not have to face this
hardship, but badly as I think of the tendency of our times,
I do not think that American sentiment will ever reach a
condition which will make the expulsion of the Negro from
the United States by any such means, possible.
Yet, the way to make it possible is to predict it. There
are people in the world who know how to bring their
own prophecies to pass. The best way to get up a mob,
is to say there will be one, and this is what is being done.
Colonization is no solution, but an evasion. It is not
repentance but putting the wronged ones out of our
presence. It is not atonement, but banishment. It is not
love, but hate. Its reiteration and agitation only serves to
fan the flame of popular prejudice and to add insult to
The righteous judgment of mankind will say if the
American people could endure the Negro's presence while
a slave, they certainly can and ought to endure his
presence as a free man.
If they could tolerate him when he was a heathen, they
might bear with him now that he is a Christian. If they
could bear with him when ignorant and degraded, they
should bear with him now that he is a gentleman and a
But even the Southern whites have an interest in this
question. Woe to the South when it no longer has the
strong arm of the Negro to till its soil, " and woe to the
nation when it shall employ the sword to drive the Negro
from his native land."
Such a crime against justice, such a crime against
gratitude, should it ever be attempted, would certainly
bring a national punishment which would cause the earth to
shudder. It would bring a stain upon the nation's honour,
like the blood on Lady Macbeth's hand. The waters
of all the oceans would not suffice to wash out the infamy.
But the nation will commit no such crime. But in
regard to this point of our future, my mind is easy. We
are here and are here to stay. It is well for us and well
for the American people to rest up on this as final.
\/emancipation crippled, landlord and tenant.
Another mode of impeaching the wisdom of emancipa-
pation, and the one which seems to give special pleasure to
our enemies, is, as they say, that the condition of the
coloured people of the South has been made worse by
The champions of this idea are the only men who glory
in the good old times when the slaves were under the lash
and were bought and sold in the market with horses, sheep,
and swine. It is another way of saying that slavery is
better than freedom ; that darkness is better than light,
and that wrong is better than right ; that hell is better
than heaven ! It is the American method of reasoning in
all matters concerning the Negro. It inverts everything ;
turns truth upside down, and puts the case of the unfortu-
nate Negro inside out and wrong end foremost every time.
There is, however, nearly always some truth on their side
of error, and it is so in this case.
When these false reasoners assert that the condition of
the emancipated slave is wretched and deplorable, they
partly tell the truth, and I agree with them. I even
concur with them in the statement that the Negro is
physically, in certain localities, in a worse condition to-day
than in the time of slavery, but I part with these g'entle-
men when they ascribe this condition to emancipation.
To my mind the blame does not rest upon emancipation,
but the defeat of emancipation. It is not the work of the
spirit of liberty, but the work of the spirit of bondage. It
comes of the determination of slavery to perpetuate itself,
if not under one form, then under another. It is due to
the folly of endeavouring to put the new wine of liberty in
the old bottles of slavery. I concede the evil, but deny
the alleged cause.
The landowners of the South want the labour of the
Negro on the hardest terms possible. They once had it
for nothing. Ihey now want it for next to nothing. To
accomplish this, they have contrived three ways. The first
is, to rent their land to the Negro at an exorbitant price
per annum and compel him to mortgage his crop in
advance to pay this rent. The laws under which this is
done are entirely in the interest of the landlord. He has
a first claim upon everything produced on the land. The
Negro can have nothing, can keep nothing, can sell
nothing, without the consent of the landlord. As
the Negro is at the start poor and empty-handed,
he has had to draw on the landlord for meat and
bread to feed himself and family while his crop
is growing. The landlord keeps books ; the Negro does
not ; hence, no matter how hard he may work or how hard
saving he may be, he is, in most cases, brought in debt
at the end of the year, and once in debt he is fastened to
the land as by hooks of steel. If he attempts to leave he
may be arrested under the order of the law.
Another way, which is still more effective, is the practice
of paying the labourer with orders on the store instead of
lawful money. By this means money is kept out of the
hands of the Negro, and the Negro is kept entirely in the
hands of the landlord. He cannot save money because he
gets no money to save. He cannot seek a better market
for his labour because he has no money with which to pay
his fare, and because he is, by that vicious order system,
already in debt, and therefore already in bondage. Thus
he is riveted to one place, and is, in some sense, a slave ;
for a man to w^hom it can be said, " You shall work for me
for what I choose to pay you, and how I shall choose to
pay you," is, in fact, a slave, though he may be called a
We denounce the landlord and tenant system of
England, but it can be said of England as cannot be said
of our free country, that by law no labourer can be paid
for labour in any other than lawful money. England holds
any other payment to be a penal offence and punishable
by fine and imprisonment. The same should be the case
in every State in the American Union.
Under the mortgage system, no matter how industrious
or economical the Negro may be, he finds himself at the
end of the year in debt to the landlord, and from year to
year he toils on and is tempted to try again and again, but
seldom with any better result.
With this power over the Negro, this possession of his
labour, you may easily see why the South sometimes makes
a display of its liberality and brags that it does not want
slavery back. It had the Negro's labour, heretofore for
nothing, and now it has it for next to nothing and at the same
time is freed from the obligation to take care of the young
and the aged, the sick and the decrepit. There is not much
virtue in all this, yet it is the ground of loud boasting.
ATTITUDE OF WHITE RACE TOWARDS NEGROES.
A NATIONAL PROBLEM.
I now come to the so-called, but mis-called " Negro
Problem," as a characterization of the relations existing in
the Southern States.
I say at once, I do not admit the justice or propriety of
this formula, as applied to the question before us. Words
are things. They are certainly such in this case, since
they give us a misnomer that is misleading and hence
mischievous. It is a formula of Southern origin and has
a strong bias against the Negro. It handicaps his cause
with all the prejudice known to exist and anything to
which he is a party. It has been accepted by the good
people of the North, as I think, without proper thought
and investigation. It is a crafty invention and is in every
way worthy of its inventors.
It springs out of a desire to throw off just responsibility
and to evade the performance of disagreeable but manifest
duty. Its natural effect and purpose is to divert attention
from the true issue now before the American people. It does
this by holding up and pre-occupying the public mind with
an issue entirely different from the real one in question.
That which is really a great national problem and which
ought to be so considered by the whole American people,
dwarfs into a " Negro Problem." The device is not new.
It is an old trick. It has been oft repeated and with a
similar purpose and effect. For truth, it gives us falsehood.
For innocence, it gives us guilt. It removes the burden of
proof from the old master class and imposes it upon the
Negro. It puts upon the race a work which belongs to the
nation. It belongs to that craftiness often displayed by
disputants who aim to make the worse appear the better
reason. It gives bad names to good things and good
names to bad things.
The Negro has often been the victim to this kind of low
cunning. You may remember that during the late war,
when the South fought for the perpetuity of slavery, it
usually called the slaves " domestic servants," and slavery
a " domestic institution." Harmless names, indeed, but
the things they stood for were far from harmless.
The South has always known how to have a dog hanged
by giving him a bad name. When it prefixed " Negro " to
the national problem, it knew that the device would awaken
and increase a deep-seated prejudice at once and that it
would repel fair and candid investigation. As it stands, it
implies that the Negro is the cause of whatever trouble
there is in the South. In old slave times, when a little
white child lost his temper, he was given a little whip and
told to go and whip " Jim " or " Sal," and he thus regained
his temper. The same is true to day on a large scale.
I repeat, and my contention is that this Negro problem
formula lays the fault at the door of the Negro and removes
it from the door of the white man, shields the guilty and
blames the innocent, makes the Negro responsible, when
it should so make the nation.
Now what the real problem is, we all ought to know. It
is not a Negro problem, but in every sense a great
national problem. It involves the question, whether
after all our boasted civilization, our Declaration of
Independence, our matchless Constitution, our sublime
Christianity, our wise statesmanship, we as a people,
possess virtue enough to solve this problem in accordance
with wisdom and justice, and to the advantage of both races.
The marvel is that this old trick of misnaming things,
so often displayed by Southern politicians, should have
worked so well for the bad cause in which it is now
employed ; for the American people have fallen in with the
bad idea that this is a Negro problem, a question of the
character of the Negro and not a question of the nation.
It is still more surprising that the coloured press of the
country, and some of our coloured orators, have made the
same mistake, and still insist upon calling it a " Negro
problem," or a race problem, for by race they mean the
Negro race. Now, there is nothing" the matter with the
Negro, whatever; he is all right. I-earned or ignorant, he
is all right. He is neither a lyncher, a mobocrat or an
anarchist. He is now what he has ever been, a loyal, law-
abiding, hard working and peaceable man ; so much so
that men have thought him cowardly and spiritless. Had
he been a turbulent anarchist he might indeed have been a
troublesome problem, but he is not. To his reproach, it is
sometimes said that any other people in the world would
have invented some violent way in which to resent their
wrongs. If this problem depended upon the character
and conduct of the Negro there would be no problem to
solve ; there would be no menace to the peace and good
order of Southern Society. He makes no unlawful light
between labour and capital. That problem, which often
makes the American people thoughtful, is not of his bring-
ing, though he may some day be compelled to talk of this
tremendous problem in common with other labourers.
He has as little to do with the cause of the Southern
trouble as he has with its cure. There is no reason, there-
fore, in the world, why his name should be given to this
problem. It is false, misleading and prejudicial, and, like
all other falsehoods, must eventually come to naught.
I well remember, as others may remember, that this
same old falsehood was employed and used against the
Negro during the late war. He was then charged and
stigmatized with being the cause of the war, on the
principle that there would be no highway robbers if there
were nobody on the road to be robbed. But as absurd as
this pretence was, the colour prejudice of the country was
stimulated by it and joined in the accusation, and the
Negro had to bear the brunt of it.
Even at the North he was hated and hunted on account
of it. In the great city of New York his houses were
burned, his children were hunted down like wild beasts,
and his people were murdered in the streets, all because
" they were the cause of the war." Even the good and noble
Mr. Lincoln, one of the best and most clear-sighted men
that ever lived, once told a committee of Negroes, who
waited upon him at Washington, that " they were the cause
of the war."
Many were the men who, in their wrath and hate,
accepted this theory, and wished the Negro in Africa, or
in a hotter climate, as some do now.
There is nothing to which prejudice is not equal in the
way of perverting the truth and inflaming the passions of
But call this problem what you may or will, the all-
important question is : How can it be solved ? How can
the peace and tranquility of the South and of the country
be secured and established r
There is nothing occult or mysterious about the answer to
this question. Some things are to be kept in the mind
when dealing with this subject and should never be for-
gotten. It should be remembered that, in the order
of Divine Providence, the " man, who puts one end
of a chain around the ankle of his fellow man,
will find the other end around his own neck."
And it is the same with a nation. Confirmation of
this truth is as strong as proofs of holy writ. As we sow
we shall reap, is a lesson that will be learned here as else-
where. We tolerated slavery and it has cost us a million
graves, and it may be that lawless murder now raging, if
permitted to go on, may yet bring the red hand of
vengeance, not onlv on the reverend head of age, and upon
the heads of helpless women, but upon even the innocent
babes in the cradle.
^^X HOW THE PROBLEM IS SOLVED.
But how can this problem be solved ? I will tell you
how it cannot be solved. It cannot be solved by keeping
the Negro poor, degraded, ignorant and half-starved, as I
have shown is now being done in Southern States.
It cannot be solved by keeping back the wages of the
labourer by fraud, as is now being done by the landlords
of the South. It cannot be done by ballot-box stuffing,
by falsif^ang election returns, or by confusing the Negro
voter by cunning devices. It cannot be done by repealing
all federal laws enacted to secure honest elections. It can,
however, be done, and very easily done, for where there is
a will there is a way.
Let the white people of the North and South conquer
Let the Northern press and pulpit proclaim the gospel
of truth and justice against the war now being made upon
Let the American people cultivate kindness and
Let the South abandon the system of mortgage labour
and cease to make the Negro a pauper, by paying him
dishonest scrip for his honest labour.
Let them give up the idea that they can be free while
making the Negro a slave. Let them give up the idea
that to degrade the coloured man is to elevate the white
man. Let them cease putting new wine into old bottles,
and mending old garments with new cloth.
They are not required to do much. They are only
required to undo the evil they have done, in order to solve
In old times when it was asked, " How can we abolish
.slavery ? " the answer was " Quit stealing."
The same is the solution of the race problem to-dav.
The whole thing can be done simply by no longer violating
the amendment of the Constitution of the United States,
and no longer evading the claims of justice. If this were
done, there would be no Negro problem or national
problem to vex the South or to vex the nation.
Let the organic law of the land be honestly sustained
and obeyed. Let the political parties cease to palter in a
double sense, and live up to the noble declarations we find
in their platforms. Let the statesmen of our country live
up to their convictions. In the language of ex-Senator
Ingalls : " Let the nation try justice and the problem will
Two hundred and twenty years ago the Negro was made
a religious problem, one which gave our white forefathers
about as much perplexity and annoyance as we now
profess. At that time the problem was in respect of what
relation a Negro sustains to the Christian Church, whether
he was in fact a fit subject for baptism, and Dr. Godwin, a
celebrated divine of his time, and one far in advance of his
brethren, was at the pains of writing a book of two
hundred pages or more, containing an elaborate argument
to prove that it was not a sin in the sight of God to
baptize a Negro.
His argument was very able, very learned, very long.
Plain as the truth may seem, there were at that time very
strong arguments against the position of the learned
As usual, it was not merely the baptism of the Negro
that gave trouble, but it was as to what might follow such
baptism. The sprinkling him with water was a very
simple thing and easily gotten along with, but the slave-
holders of that day saw in the innovation something more
dangerous than cold water. They said that to baptize the
Negro and make him a member of the Church of Christ
was to make him an important person — in fact, to make
him an heir of Jesus Christ. It was to give him a place at
Lord's supper. It was to take him out of the category of
heathenism and make it inconsistent to hold him a slave,
for the Bible made only the heathen a proper subject for
These were formidable consequences, certainly, and it
is not strange that the Christian slaveholders of that day
viewed these consequences with immeasurable horror. It
was something more terrible and dangerous than the Civil
Rights Bill and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amend-
ments to our Constitution. It was a difficult thing, there-
fore, at that day to get the Negro into water.
Nevertheless, our learned doctor of divinity, like many
of the same class in our day, was equal to the emergency.
He was able to satisfy all important parties to the
problem, except the Negro, and him it did not seem
necessary to satisfy.
The doctor was a skilled dialectician. He could not
only divide the word with skill, but he could divide the
Negro into two parts. He argued that the Negro had a
soul as well as a body, and insisted that while his body
rightfully belonged to his master on earth, his soul
belonged to his Master in heaven. By this convenient
arrangement, somewhat metaphysical, to be sure, but
entirely evangelical and logical, the problem of Negro
baptism was solved.
But with the Negro in the case, as I have said, the
argument was not entirely satisfactory. The operation
was much like that by which the white man got the
turkey and the Indian got the crow. When the Negro
looked for his body, that belonged to his earthly master ;
when he looked around for his soul, that had been
appropriated by his heavenly Master ; and when he
looked around for something that really belonged to
himself, he found nothing but his shadow, and that
vanished into the air, when he might most want it.
One thing, however, is to be noticed with satisfaction ;
it is this : something was gained to the cause of righteous-
ness by this argument. It was a contribution to the cause
of liberty. It was largely in favour of the Negro.
It was a plain recognition of his manhood, and was
calculated to set men to thinking that the Negro might
have some other important rights, no less than the
religious right to baptism.
Thus, with all its faults, we are compelled to give
the pulpit the credit of furnishing the first important
argument in favour of the religious character and man-
hood rights of the Negro.
Dr. Godwin was undoubtedly a good man. He wrote at
a time of much moral darkness, and when property in man
was nearly everywhere recognised as a rightful institution.
He saw only a part of the truth. He saw that the Negro
had a right to be baptized, but he could not all at once see
that he had a primary and paramount right to himself.
But this was not the only problem slavery had in store
for the Negro. Time and events brought another and it
was this very important one : Can the Negro sustain the
legal relation of a husband to a wifer Can he make a
valid marriage contract in this Christian country?
This problem was solved by the same slaveholding
authority, entirely against the Negro. Such a contract,
it was argued, could only be binding upon men providenti-
ally enjoying the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of
happiness, and since the Negro is a slave and slavery a
divine institution, legal marriage was wholly inconsistent
with the institution of slavery.
When some of us at the North questioned the ethics of
this conclusion, we were told to mind our business, and our
Southern brethren asserted, as they assert now, that they
alone are competent to manage this and all other questions
relating to the Negro. In fact, there has been no end to
the problems of some sort or other, involving the Negro in
Can the Negro be a citizen? was the question of the
Dred Scott decision. Can the Negro be educated? Can
the Negro be induced to work for himself without a
master? Can the Negro be a soldier? Time and events
have answered these and all other like questions. We
have among us Negroes who have taken the first prizes as
scholars; those who have won distinction for courage and
skill on the battle field; those who have taken rank as
lawyers, doctors and ministers of the gospel; those who
shine among men in every useful calling; and yet we are
called a problem — a tremendous problem ; a mountain of
difficulty; a constant source of apprehension; a disturbing
social force, threatening destruction to the holiest and best
interests of society. I declare this statement concerning
the Negro, whether by good Miss Willard, Bishop
Haygood, Bishop Fitzgerald, ex-Governor Chamberlain,
or by any and all others, as false and deeply injurious to
the coloured citizens of the United States.
But, my friends, I must stop. Time and strength are
not equal to the task before me. But could I be heard by
this great nation, I would call to mind the sublime and
glorious truths with which, at its birth, it saluted and
startled a listening world. Its voice, then, was as the
trump of an archangel, summoning hoary forms of oppres-
sion and time honoured tyranny, to judgment. Crowned
heads heard it and shrieked. Toiling millions heard it and
clapped their hands for joy. It announced the advent of a
nation, based upon human brotherhood and the self-evident
truths of liberty and equality. Its mission Avas the
redemption of the world from the bondage of ages. Apply
these sublime and glorious truths to the situation now
before you. Put away your race prejudice. Banish the
idea that one class must rule over another. Recognize the
fact that the rights of the humblest citizens are as worthy
of protection as are those of the highest and your problem
will be solved, and — whatever may be in store for you in the
future, whether prosperity or adversity, whether you have
foes without or foes within, whether there shall be peace
or war — based upon the eternal principles of truth, justice
and humanity, with no class having cause for complaint or
grievance, your Republic will stand and flourish for ever.
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